I frequent downtown several times a week and have never had to drive around for more than one minute to find parking and only at street fairs. So the downtown parking vacancy rate, as my eyeball estimate over various times and days, would be probably 50 to 60 percent on average.
This of course does not justify a parking structure. The fact that the residents of Menlo Park who patronize it don't want one (read recent letters in the Almanac from Menlo Park residents as well as Yahoo groups from residents) leaves little doubt that one should not be built.
The current parking lots serve the following purpose and have these advantages:
• They are more organically representative of a small town like Menlo Park.
• They match the character of Menlo Park.
• They are extremely practical. No one wants to walk from Trader Joe's with their bags of food up a parking garage. This will also decrease the shopping frequency (store revenues) as it will not be possible to simply "just stop in and grab a few things" from any downtown store, but it probably would be good for the large Safeway.
• This absence of current surface parking lots will mean an end to the Farmers' Market and other mixed-use events that are a large part of the city's character.
• Seniors will also have difficulty going up four flights in a parking structure, elevators or not.
• Safety, of course, in a high-rise structure is compromised as support pillars and walls act as hiding spots for thieves.
A motivation for the Menlo Park Planning Department is to build a big parking structure in order to infill the rest of the parking lots with revenue sources. However, we who live in Menlo Park do not want something that is clearly not needed.
Secondly, its downstream potential purpose is challenged by the residents who want to retain Menlo Park's existing "village" character as stated in the very first page of the draft plan. We want to retain this character rather than fill the rest of the (existing) parking lots with buildings.
Carl Treadwell, Avy Avenue, Menlo Park